The Critical Body logo

The best bodyweight bicep exercises and curls for calisthenics

These 12 bodyweight bicep exercises are a brilliant addition to any muscle-building calisthenics workout.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 5th September 2021
A man demonstrating two of the best bodyweight bicep exercises that you can perform

There are countless bicep workouts that you can perform to build and strengthen your biceps brachii. However, many of the exercises are inconvenient because they require free weights and various other equipment.

That's where our list of the best bodyweight exercises for biceps comes in. Unlike similar guides, we actually chose 100% bicep bodyweight exercises, most of which you can do without a bar.

The 12 best bodyweight exercises for biceps

We ranked the most effective bodyweight exercises for biceps based on their convenience, accessibility, and the results that they can produce when performed consistently.

1. Inverted bicep curls

A man doing an inverted curl

Inverted bicep curls are a mass-building movement, if there ever was one. Since you're curling a percentage of your bodyweight, the resistance is always going to be relative; hence just about anyone with decent arm strength can smash out a few sets of inverted curls. Plus, if the bodyweight-only version becomes too easy, then you can always throw on a weighted vest to increase the resistance.

  1. Sit under a bar and grab it with a shoulder-width underhand grip.
  2. Place your legs out in front of you with your feet planted firmly on the floor.
  3. With the bar over your mid-chest, pull yourself toward the bar by flexing your biceps. Avoid letting your elbows travel too far behind your body as this will work your back.
  4. Keep pulling yourself up until your chest touches the bar or until your biceps are fully contracted.
  5. Optionally, pull your head in front of the bar to increase the demand placed on your biceps.
  6. Finish the rep by lowering your torso under control until your elbows reach full extension.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps.

2. Door curls

A man performing a doorway curl for his biceps

Door curls are an example of a biceps calisthenics exercise that you can do from the comforts of your own home or apartment. Like other weightless bicep workouts, however, you'll need to perform high reps before you really start to feel the burn. Of course, you can just wear a weighted vest and make the movement challenging from the get-go, but often high reps can give you a better pump.

You can also increase the difficulty by holding the doorframe with just one hand or by grabbing the casting with a pinch grip (with your thumbs and fingers rather than the palm of your hands), which will give your gripping muscles a good workout too.

  1. Stand in the middle of the doorway and grab one side with both hands.
  2. Shuffle your feet toward one side of the doorframe and then lean your torso back.
  3. Move your body toward the doorframe by flexing your biceps.
  4. Stop once your torso touches the doorframe, and then lower yourself slowly until your arms are locked out.
  5. Perform 3-5 sets of 20-40 reps.

3. Bodyweight biceps curls

A man performing a bodyweight bicep curl

You can do the bodyweight bicep curl absolutely anywhere because it requires nothing but your arms and a solid mind-muscle connection. Yes, you'll really need to squeeze your biceps on this one.

In other words, you'll be creating your own resistance. You can do this by simply flexing your biceps as you do this weightless bicep exercise. Or, you can train each arm separately and use your other hand to apply manual resistance. For muscle growth, the latter option is the better choice because you'll be able to place more tension on your biceps.

  1. Hold one arm by your side with your palm facing up.
  2. Curl that arm toward your shoulder while actively trying to push it back down with your opposite arm.
  3. Keep curling until your forearm and bicep make firm contact.
  4. Release the contraction and lower your working arm back to your side while trying to push it back up with your opposite arm.
  5. Repeat the movement with your other arm and do 3-5 sets of 15-30 reps per side.

4. TRX bicep curl

A man performing a TRX biceps curl

If you have access to a suspension trainer, then the TRX curl is one of the best bicep body weight exercises that you can do to get those gains. The regular version is hard enough for most people (including many bodybuilders!). But if you're already a calisthenics master, then you can do your curls one arm at a time to effectively double the resistance and stimulate new mass gain.

You can also check out the other TRX biceps exercises if you want to work your arms from a different angle.

  1. Suspend your TRX above head height and then grab the handles with an underhand grip.
  2. Step away from the anchor point so that your arms are fully extended.
  3. Lean your torso back to create some resistance.
  4. While keeping your core tight, curl your forehead toward the TRX handles.
  5. Squeeze your biceps as hard as you can, and then lower yourself slowly until your elbows reach full extension.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

5. Chin-ups

A man doing bodyweight chin-ups

Chin-ups make an excellent addition to any bodyweight bicep workout because they can provoke impressive amounts of mass gain when you perform them consistently. They'll also help you build a broad back in the process, so if you want better biceps and a more aesthetic v-taper, make sure to include chin-ups in your calisthenics bicep workout.

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an underhand grip just inside shoulder width.
  2. Arch your upper back slightly and look straight ahead.
  3. Pull your chest toward the bar by flexing your biceps and contracting your lats.
  4. Keep going until your chin clears the bar.
  5. Lower yourself under control until your elbows are almost, but not quite, locked out.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.

6. TRX reverse curl

A man performing a TRX reverse curl

The TRX reverse curl is not only one of the best bodyweight bicep exercises; it's brilliant for building the brachialis and brachioradialis as well. These two muscles will make your arms appear wider and thicker, which in turn will make your physique look more complete.

  1. Attach your suspension trainer to an anchor point above head height.
  2. Grab the handles with an overhand grip, and then step away from the anchor point so that your elbows are fully extended.
  3. Lean your torso back and then curl your face toward the handles.
  4. Keep curling until the tops of your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  5. Hold the contraction for a second or two, then lower yourself under control until your elbows reach full extension.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

7. Towel curls

A man performing towel curls for his biceps

Towel curls are one of those types of bodyweight curls that you can do virtually anywhere. And the heavier your leg is, the more resistance you'll get. So let's say a prayer for all those gym bros who skipped leg day before we start our weightless bicep workout.

  1. Hold both ends of a towel and then place it around your hamstring.
  2. Curl your leg toward your stomach until you feel an intense bicep contraction.
  3. Squeeze your biceps, and then lower your leg until your elbows are almost locked out.
  4. Perform 3-5 sets of 20-50 reps.

8. Isometric chin-ups

A man performing isometric chin-ups

Isometric chin-ups are one of those body weight bicep exercises that never fails to challenge you. It doesn't matter if you're a 150lb gymnast or a 300lb bodybuilder; prolonged isometrics are going to make your biceps burn.

This movement makes an excellent finishing exercise after a tough body weight bicep workout because it helps to fatigue the remaining muscle fibers and thus stimulate new growth. That's why it's one of the best isometric bicep exercises for hypertrophy.

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an underhand grip just inside shoulder-width.
  2. Pull yourself up so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Hold this position for as long as you can.
  4. As the 90-degree position becomes too hard to maintain, allow your elbows to extend more and then hold that position.
  5. Keep this up until you can no longer hold the bar with bent elbows.
  6. Optionally, you can prolong the set by holding the bar with your elbows extended once your biceps fatigue in order to train your gripping muscles. Hence, this movement is also one of the best forearm bodyweight exercises as well.

9. Inverted rows

A man doing inverted rows

If you want more bang for your buck than body weight biceps curls can provide, then give inverted rows a try. Not only will this exercise thicken your back and thus improve your v-taper, but it'll also build your brachioradialis in addition to your biceps. This is a muscle that many lifters neglect and which can enhance the appearance of your arms when they're in a relaxed state. So don't skip this movement if you want to look big even when you're not flexing.

  1. Position yourself underneath a barbell or Smith machine bar and grab it with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  2. Center the bar over your mid-chest to focus on your traps or center it over your upper abs to shift the emphasis onto your lats.
  3. Ensure that your abs are tight and that your feet are planted securely on the ground.
  4. Pull your torso toward the bar by driving your elbows behind your body.
  5. Squeeze your back and arms at the top of the rep.
  6. Lower your torso under control until your elbows reach full extension.
  7. Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

10. TRX Zottman curl

A man performing a TRX Zottman curl

Unlike regular body weight bicep curls, the TRX Zottman curl challenges your brachialis and brachioradialis to an even larger extent than your biceps. This is actually a good thing if you want to build your arms because, as mentioned, many lifters actually have underdeveloped brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, especially in comparison with their biceps.

Just make sure to use a thumbless grip for this exercise. Otherwise, you won't be able to rotate your hands properly at the top of the rep. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

  1. Hold the suspension trainer handles with a thumbless underhand grip.
  2. Take a few steps back so that your elbows are completely extended.
  3. Lean your torso back to increase the resistance.
  4. Curl your forehead toward the handles.
  5. Keep curling until the undersides of your forearms make firm contact with your biceps.
  6. Rotate your hands into a palms down (pronated) position.
  7. Lower your body slowly until your elbows are once again fully locked out.
  8. Switch back to the original underhand grip and repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

11. Curls with your leg

A man doing weightless bicep workouts by curling his leg

Performing curls with your leg is one of the most convenient weightless bicep exercises that you can do to build muscle because you don't need any equipment. All you need is your lower leg and a spare 5 minutes. Perfect if you’re bored at work!

You can also see our guide to the best bicep workout without weights if you'd like more equipment-free exercise ideas.

  1. Stand up straight and then grab the lower part of your left leg with your right arm (as if you were holding a dumbbell).
  2. Curl your leg as high as you can so that your biceps become contracted.
  3. Lower your leg and repeat with the other side.
  4. Perform 3-5 reps of 20-40 reps.

12. TRX hammer curl

A man performing a TRX hammer curl

The TRX hammer curl is one of the best bodyweight bicep exercises that you can do for overall mass because you'll be stronger at it than regular curls. This means that you can perform more reps per set and thus place greater tension on your biceps.

The grip can be a little tricky, however. You can hold the suspension trainer handles with a neutral grip, or, if you're using a TRX specifically, you can grab the strapping underneath the handles, again with a neutral grip.

  1. Grab your suspension trainer handles with a neutral grip.
  2. Take a few steps back so that your arms are extended.
  3. Lean your body back to create some resistance, and then curl your face toward the handles.
  4. Keep curling until your biceps and the tops of your forearms are fully contracted.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a second, and then lower your torso slowly until your elbows are extended.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.

Bodyweight biceps workout routines

These intense bodyweight biceps workout routines will challenge and change you. There are workouts that include basic training tools such as a pull-up bar, but there are also workouts that are 100% equipment-free.

The starter bodyweight bicep workout

A man demonstrating some body weight bicep exercises

1: Inverted curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

2: TRX Zottman curls — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

3: Bodyweight biceps curls — 1 set to failure

This is the most straightforward of the body weight bicep workouts and is ideal if you're relatively new to calisthenics and can't yet do many chin-ups. Although there are only three exercises in this routine, that's all you need to grow as a novice. Aim to leave no more than two reps in the tank on each set so that you're training close enough to muscular failure to stimulate hypertrophy.

Rest 1-3 minutes between sets; longer if the previous set was hard, shorter if it was relatively easy.

The intermediate calisthenics bicep workout

A man doing a calisthenics bicep workout

1: Inverted curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

2: Bodyweight biceps curl (with manual resistance) — 3 sets of 20-40 reps

3: TRX reverse curl — 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps

4: Isometric chin-ups — 1-2 sets to failure

Unless you're a calisthenics pro, this bodyweight biceps workout will get even the most stubborn set of arms growing again. You'll be working your biceps (and your brachialis and brachioradialis) from multiple angles and with different rep ranges so that you can recruit the maximum amount of muscles fibers and stimulate new gains.

The weightless bicep workout

A man demonstrating a good bodyweight biceps workout routine

1: Bodyweight biceps curl (with manual resistance) — 3-5 sets of 20-40 reps

2: Door curls — 3-5 sets of 20-40 reps

3: Towel curls — 3-5 sets of 20-40 reps

While you can do all of these bicep workouts at home, this weightless bicep workout is ideal if you don't have any equipment besides your own body and household objects (by which I mean a towel).

The trick to getting those gains when you don't have access to weights is to train close to failure.

This way, you can ensure that your biceps are completely fatigued and thus primed for growth.

Conclusion: Is bicep calisthenics good for building muscle?

Performing bodyweight bicep exercises on a regular basis can build similar amounts of muscle to traditional training methods. After all, muscle tissue mainly responds to tension. So your biceps don't know whether you're lifting a dumbbell or your own bodyweight. Lifting intensely and consistently and then making the best use of that effort with a high-protein diet is what matters the most.

For best results, perform one of the above bicep body weight workouts 1-2 times per week. This setup will provide your arms with enough volume to grow bigger and stronger while also giving your muscles a chance to recover and rebuild. Alternatively, you can pick from our list of bicep bodyweight exercises and create your own custom workout if you want to follow a routine that's personalized to your own strengths and weaknesses.

James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
chevron-upmenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram